Monday, January 24, 2011
After three weeks of traveling in Asia, I was ready to return to London. But when my flight touched down at Heathrow at 4:30am, the dark, damp reality of winter had me wishing I were off traveling again. As a partial concession to this desire, I had an invitation to stay at Flemings hotel in Mayfair, where I planned to spend a one-night staycation in denial of being back in the cold.
My Mayfair staycation started out that afternoon. I was welcomed at Flemings, which was a boutique hotel that consisted of six adjoining 19th century Georgian townhouses just off Piccadilly on Half Moon Street. It had recently undergone a renovation to transform it into a chic bolt hole in the heart of London.
My room featured a king size bed, a desk, a love seat, and a mirrored wardrobe, all done in soft grays and purples. The spacious bathroom had a stand-alone bathtub as well as a separate shower, and the cosmetics were made by Gilchrist & Soames. The whole space was warm and inviting, and I didn’t hesitate to drop my bags and relax on the soft sofa as soon as I walked in.
As an extra treat, there were two Primrose Bakery cupcakes awaiting my arrival. In a post-traveling effort to stop indulging my inner glutton, I ate one and shared the other with a friend.
That same friend and I braved the cold and ventured out to find a restaurant for dinner in Mayfair. First we tried Automat, where I had enjoyed the Eggs Benedict so many times at brunch but had yet to try for dinner. Unfortunately it was fully booked for the evening.
Undeterred, we made our way to Shepherd Market, a Georgian-era area with small cobbled streets, a cluster of pubs, and an array of shops and restaurants. It was one of my favorite places in Mayfair, and I had spent many evenings with friends at Ye Grapes, Sofra, and around the corner at Mamounia Lounge on Curzon Street.
My friend suggested dinner at Le Boudin Blanc, which—as the name suggests—was a French restaurant in Shepherd Market. My internal clock was still on Singapore time, and I wasn’t very hungry when I arrived. However, my unfailing ability to ingest large quantities of good food no matter my appetite didn’t let me down. I enjoyed the coq au vin and the bottle of red Burgundy that we shared.
After dinner we were in need of a walk to burn off some of the heavy French calories. We headed down Piccadilly, passing Green Park and the Ritz, then turned onto St James’s. I have always loved that street for its beautiful historic architecture and achingly traditional men’s shops. As we walked down towards Pall Mall, we stopped to window shop at a luggage store where leather bags and cases were on promotion for just 900 pounds.
After saying good-bye to my friend, I fell into bed at Flemings and slept surprisingly well despite my jet lag. I woke up to some noises in the hall in the morning, probably as a result of my room being right at the top of a flight of stairs.
I took my time getting ready, then headed downstairs to the Grill for breakfast. It had been refurbished a year before, and featured a dark autumn color scheme and black leather banquettes. The buffet breakfast was simple, but I enjoyed my yogurt, croissant, and tea. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the hostess, who was rather brusque in her demeanor. So much so, in fact, that the couple next to me complained to the manager, who comped their meal.
Things looked up after breakfast, when I was taken on a tour of Flemings with someone much more friendly. There I got to see a variety of guest rooms, all of which were decorated in different styles. From traditional decor with tartan accents to ultra-contemporary design with stark white interiors, there was something for every taste. In addition, the room sizes ranged from standard hotel rooms to three-bedroom apartments with full kitchens and their own private entrance at the back of the hotel.
After the guest rooms I was shown a large conference room and the ‘eccentrically flamboyant’ Front Room with larger-than-life green chairs and walls full of books. The latter was a space that guests could use for casual meetings or afternoon tea, cupcakes, and Champagne.
Downstairs next to the Grill were the Tea Rooms. They were an Alice-in-Wonderland-like series of small spaces that had been decorated in bold red patterns with geometric mirrors. The addition of low lighting made for a very hip feel. Beyond the Tea Rooms were the Cocktail Rooms, which featured a bar backed by blue neon lights that looked out over chic aqua patterned seating with hot pink pillows.
My tour of Flemings hotel in Mayfair over, I meandered out of the hotel and back onto Piccadilly. It was time to leave both the neighborhood and my denial of being done with three weeks of traveling behind. As I walked the short distance to the Green Park tube, I pulled my gloves on a bit tighter and fastened my coat up a bit higher, challenging the London winter to show me its worst…